Step I - Planning your project

This involves understanding the catchment you are working in (1, 2), bringing together a competent team (3) and taking necessary steps in planning to reduce risk and uncertainty in your project (4).

Follow these four steps:

  1. Identifying all stakeholders
  2. Understanding the physical and biological processes
  3. Importance of an experienced, multidisciplinary team
  4. Reducing risk and uncertainty

1. Identifying all stakeholders

Determining project aims which include all stakeholders’ ambitions and expectations often take time to develop. In some EU Member States, the involvement of all stakeholders is an obligatory process in coordinating basin activities. In France for example, a Master Plan and Water Management plan (SAGE) must be developed by all stakeholders at a basin scale, coordinated by a local Water Commission.

However, in other countries, stakeholders often only become involved for the first time at a later stage during public consultation when project aims and plans have already been drawn-up. Experiences across Europe suggest that both of these contrasting approaches have their benefits and drawbacks. Commonly, this part of any project is known to take a considerable amount of time and this should not be underestimated in the timeframe of the project.

Seeking the views and priorities of all groups and organisations that have a vested interest in the location will ensure that you consider everyone's needs and priorities. While a private organisation funding a project may wish to demonstrate corporate environmental responsibility, the priority for local people and the local municipal authority will be in providing services that benefit local communities. Below is a list of some other organisations that may wish to be involved.


2. What are your aims

It can be a challenge incorporating different aims within your project, but implementing a scheme that has a wide range of benefits for people and the environment is likely to mean greater public support. This table briefly describes the different areas you can focus on. We have provided a case study to illustrate each point.

3. Importance of an experienced, multidisciplinary team

Depending on the scope and nature of your project, you will need to bring together the skills, advice and support of a number of specialists. It is important to work with these experts at the start of a project so that its full possibilities can be achieved.
Archaeologist/ heritage professional
Shares knowledge of local heritage and culture to help guide project planning and restoration.
Checks that project approach and restoration techniques benefit habitats and species found at the site and within the catchment. They also help shape the design.
Community contact
A trusted locally based contact between the project team and the public, and decision-making.
Construction contractor
Makes sure the project is completed on time and budget. Inputs into designs and is available to answer any questions on-site to steer works.
Provides advice on river channel and floodplain regarding morphology, sediment and natural river processes. Also advises on project design.
Expert knowledge about river flow, floods, drought and groundwater systems and how these interrelate.
Landscape architect
Gives direction on project design, landscape and planting.
Project manager
Has overall responsibility for the project, day-to-day management, controlling budgets and communicating with specialists and the public.
Site supervisor

Makes sure everyone meets their health and safety responsibilities on- and off-site. 

4. Reducing risk and uncertainty

There are a number of actions that can be taken at the start of the project planning process which can reduce project risk and uncertainty. Reproduced from RRC et al. (2008) "River Restoration: Managing the Uncertainty in Restoring Physical Habitat", p182 (Editors - Stephen Darby and David Sear, Wiley), this includes considerations when completing a tender document for river restoration


Now go to Step II – Design, objective setting and pre-monitoring

Relevant links and documents

  • Stream and Watershed Restoration: A Guide to Restoring Riverine Processes and Habitats

This textbook covers both new and existing information following a stepwise approach on theory, planning, implementation, and evaluation methods for the restoration of stream habitats. It is illustrated with case studies from around the world (Purchase here)

    River Restauration Framework (Australia)

Provides a simple step-by-step process for river restoration across Australia by incorporating the variety of biophysical, societal, economic and political structures that affect and are affected by river restoration. View here

  • River Landscapes fact sheet (Australia)
A fact sheet which includes sections on river restoration, rehabilitation and remediation — what is the difference, river restoration planning and a step-by-step example of the planning process. View here
  • EU LIFE+ STREAM project. Planning river restoration advice note
Aspects to consider when planning river restoration work, including sections on river restoration planning, planning and permissions, timescales and a project team. View here
  • River Restoration Centre (2011) Practical River Restoration Appraisal Guidance for Monitoring Options (PRAGMO) document
A guidance document that aims to assist all practitioners in the process of setting monitoring protocols as part of a river restoration project. Because there is a wide range of organisations, with a range of knowledge and abilities, this guidance seeks to include monitoring strategies suitable for different groups. Steps outlined are intended to support technical staff working for competent authorities, consultancies and academic institutions as well as organisations with limited funds, which may need to demonstrate success to Trustees and funders.



  • Project manager (often an environmental agency) - to co-ordinate overall project administration, budget control, approvals, and facilitate good communication between experts and public.
  • Geomorphologist - to provide direction in a structured manner on construction sequencing, methodology, bioengineering, erosion and sediment control, and ensure compliance with design. Advice should be fed via the supervising engineer or project manager (i.e. whoever is running the contract on behalf of the client).
  • Supervising/design engineer - to ensure design compliance (appropriateness and integrity of any structural elements), construction sequencing, methods and equipment adhered to, materials inspection completed, design compliance incorporated and statutory services informed.
  • Biologist/ecologist – enable the designs to maximise the environmental benefits from the project. They would  understand the existing impacts on the river ecology and to help select and design restoration techniques that benefit the local ecology. They would highlight any protected species and/or invasive species issues during construction, they can also ensure wildlife legislation is complied with e.g.Habitats Directive. They can advise during construction to limit impacts and maximise benefits on the existing habitats and species.
  • Landscape architect - to provide field level direction on construction sequencing, landscape details, design compliance, bioengineering materials, and planting schemes if appropriate (note leaving the river to colonise naturally is normally the best environmental option). 
  • Experienced contractors - to ensure that the project is implemented properly in conjunction with the above experts, especially the design engineer/team. This is especially important in designs including bioengineering and the creation of habitat features.
  • Hydrogeologist - to conduct materials testing, groundwater control, foundation/footing considerations, and soils inspections.
The brief description of roles is adapted from Boyd, A.A., Breton, H.S., Gazendam et al. (2001). Adaptive management of Stream River Corridors in Ontario. Watershed Science Centre, Ontariom Canada.